Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse defended by fellow Dem amid scrutiny of membership in allegedly all-White club

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Democratic Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., defended Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse on Tuesday after he faced scrutiny over his family’s membership in what a local news outlet called an “all-White” Rhode Island beach club.

“Sheldon Whitehouse has been a fighter for racial and economic justice his whole life. Full stop,” Cicilline wrote on Twitter.

The controversy emerged following the publication of an interview in which local outlet GoLocalProv confronted Whitehouse, a progressive Democratic who has often spoken out against systemic racism, about his family’s longtime membership in Bailey’s Beach Club, also known as the Spouting Rock Beach Association. 

The outlet reported that Whitehouse and his wife have been members at the club for decades. The association describes Bailey’s as “an exclusive private beach club in Newport, Rhode Island,” according to its employment page.

A reporter asked Whitehouse if the club had admitted any minority members since 2017, when it previously confronted him about his membership. The senator reportedly transferred his stake in the club in recent years to his wife, who remains one of its largest shareholders.

“I think the people who are running the place are still working on that and I’m sorry it hasn’t happened yet,” Whitehouse said in response to the question on the club’s membership. He added that Bailey’s was a “long tradition in Rhode Island.”

Whitehouse’s office later denied the club had discriminatory membership practices.

“The club has no such restrictive policies. The club has had and has members of color,” a representative for Whitehouse told Fox News earlier this week. 

Whitehouse later told reporters that the local outlet had “gotten the facts wrong” about the club.

“They have a long tradition of being a family club, and they’re working on improving diversity,” Whitehouse said, according to Politico. “That’s pretty fair.”

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